The Puhinui Three Day Event this weekend marks the halfway stage in the Bell Tea Super League, which runs throughout the competition year. It will have huge impact on the series as double points are earned at three-day events.
The CCI3* (Advanced) class has a quality field of twelve of the country’s top performers, including seven of the first eight on the Super League table. Donna Smith (Te Kauwhata), who won the National One Day title and leads the series with Tim and Sarah Varley’s Just Chocolate, has also entered Balmoral Sensation, who she describes as the horse of her dreams.
A former international, Smith has been nurturing Sensation’s career carefully to give this magnificent horse every opportunity to be as good as his name suggests, and this will be his first major challenge. Expect big things in the future, whether he delivers his full potential this weekend or not.
Last year’s winners, Christen Hayde (Pukekohe) and Tandarra Sweet As, who also won the Bell Tea Super League last year, will be hoping to produce the goods again this time, but the competition will be keen, with Annabel Wigley (Amberley) having brought both NRM Enzo and NRM Frog Rock from the South Island.
Young rider Ashleigh McKinstry, who lies second in the Super League and also leads the Massey University Young Rider series with her part bred Kaimanawa Pioneer Makokomiko, will be hoping to hold her own against her seniors, but evergreen Bryce Newman (Bulls) with Bates Trademark and Auckland lawyer Simon Gordon with Fletch.com will be trying to move up the table.
Shelley Ross (Helensville) and Dannie Lodder (Auckland) will be hoping for better luck this weekend, having withdrawn their horses from the National One-day Event at Taupo a fortnight ago after a falls from other horses, forfeiting any chance of adding to their Super League tallies as a result.
The field is completed by former Olympian Heelan Tompkins (New Plymouth) on Cortaflex Ski Whistler and Monica Oakley (Waipukurau) on Fontain, who she nursed back from a career threatening paddock injury in January to move seamlessly up to this level despite missing the autumn season.
The Puhinui CCI3*, along with the NRM CCI3* at Taupo in May, are the two highest level events in New Zealand, with the Adelaide CCI4* the only event of higher stature in the southern hemisphere, so Puhinui is a chance to see the action and excitement of this Olympic sport on our doorstep.
-- Virginia Caro